A hero of the civil rights movement, Clarence Henderson has again taken a risky position when he announced recently that he is supporting Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. At a rally in High Point, North Carolina, Henderson gave the invocation and then smiled when he shook Trump’s hand. The 74-year-old Henderson has been taken to task on Twitter for endorsing Trump, even while he has shrugged off the criticism. In an interview with AP, Henderson said that Trump is “certainly not a politician.” Henderson said that “politicians are a dime a dozen, but leaders are priceless."
Trump remains unpopular with black voters, according to multiple polls. Henderson has been accused by some of selling out his principles by supporting Trump.
But Henderson has taken the criticism in stride, especially with regard to the leftist protest group du jour: Black Lives Matter. In an interview with The Carolinian, he was forthright in criticizing the leftists of Black Lives Matter. When asked whether Black Lives Matter compares to the activists of the Civil Rights era, he said, "They do not compare. The civil rights movement was based on the idea of all human beings being the same and not being treated as lesser under the law. It was not based on enforcing personal choices and getting involved in the way individuals choose to live their lives. The civil rights movement was a peaceful movement that put Jim Crowe on trial based on the principle that all people are created equal.
"You have to distinguish between a principle-driven movement and an agenda-driven movement. Black Lives Matter is not a peaceful movement but a movement that has provoked violence — has the agenda of inciting people because when you hear chants like the 'pigs in a blanket,' 'fry um like bacon,' you know that it is not about peace and principle."
Henderson was one member of a small group of teenagers who decided to protest the racist laws of the Tar Heel State back in the 1950s by sitting down and refusing to move from a Woolworth’s lunch counter, demanding service like any other human being. One of the teens who joined him then, Jabreel Khazan, disagrees with Henderson’s choice but gave him his blessing and added, “We should not be a one-minded people."
Henderson, who was a freshman at North Carolina A&T State University at the time, joined four protesters at Woolworth’s on the second day of their protest because he thought it was the right thing to do. When angry white people jeered and threatened them, they wondered if they would be jailed or killed. But despite their eventual arrest, they inspired a generation of civil rights protesters throughout the Deep South and elsewhere who sought to throw off racist Jim Crow laws.
Something that made him different from his fellows was the example set by his father, a life-long Republican. With a minimal education, Henderson’s father had discovered that Democrats had created and enforced racist laws, while it was the Republican Party that had pushed for constitutional amendments abolishing slavery, granting equal protection before the law, and gave black people the right to vote.
Henderson, who has a background in financial services, cast his first vote for a Republican candidate for George W. Bush. He continued to vote for Republicans, even when then-Sen. Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain in 2008. Having reviewed Obama’s record, Henderson realized that he differed with Obama on ideology.
Sen. Ted Cruz was Henderson’s first choice this year, but he has accepted Trump as the Republican nominee largely because of his business acumen. At his invocation at the Trump rally last month, Henderson said, "I stand before you as one that knows what America's all about - the good, the bad and the ugly. I would not live in any other country except America that put Jim Crow on trial and found him guilty of trying to separate the races. So I stand before you to say that we are unified." In the AP interview, he said that because of having seen such injustice early in life that he would “rather be in the minority on the side of justice than in the majority on the side of injustice.”
Henderson was again outspoken this year on a moral issue with political trappings. When the Obama administration sued North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) over HB2 or “An Act to Provide for Single-sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations,” which had been opposed by Democrats and progressives, Henderson was plainspoken in his criticisms. “Let us be clear: HB2 cannot be compared to the injustice of Jim Crow. In fact, it is insulting to liken African Americans’ continuing struggle for equality in America to the liberals’ attempt to alter society’s accepted norms.”
This was in reference to Attorney General Loretta Lynch comparison of HB2 to Jim Crow. “Jim Crow laws were put into place to keep an entire race positioned as second-class citizens. HB2 simply says that men and women should use the restroom of their biological sex in government buildings and schools. This comparison is highly offensive and utterly disrespectful to those families and individuals who have shed blood and lost lives to advance the cause of civil rights. I take this as a personal slap in the face because I was an active participant in the civil rights movement.”
He accused Democrats and progressives of pandering to black Americans, saying “You cannot pimp the Civil Rights Movement.”
Saying that “transgender” people have not face the “cruel, vicious reality of segregation first hand,” nor the firehouses, attack dogs, and lynchings of racist mobs, he said that it is an insult that leftists ignore “the continued absence of African Americans at the top levels of corporate America including the companies that took a public stand against HB2.” As for Lynch, he wrote in an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer, “Throughout my life, I have noticed that even smart people say dumb things. And you, Ms. Lynch, have once again proven me right. Well done.”